Rule #1 Aim High, Aim Low, and Know What You're Aiming At
If you can't see the bullseye, you'll never know if you hit your mark. It's no different with media relations. Before you do anything else, set clear measurable goals for your event's media plan. Perhaps you want to increase participation in next year's event. You might want to attract new sponsors or event partners. But just having goals won't be enough. Try this three step process to setting goals that will move your event forward:
Get some input. Get feedback from everyone involved. You don't necessarily have to have a consensus, but everyone on your team will be helping you achieve your event's goals, so it's important that they all feel involved in the goal-setting process. Not only will it help unify your team, but two heads, or ten, are better than one. Your team members might have some great ideas you haven't considered.
Make them measurable. In order to know whether you media plan was effective, you have to be able to measure your results, and that means setting goals that have objective targets. Rather than simply increasing participation, aim to increase participation by 15 percent. The more specific you can be, the better. Perhaps your event is popular with the 10-12 age group, but you'd like focus on increasing participation in the 8-10 age group in order to seed participation for future years. That's a great specific goal because it allows you to target your efforts at that age group and measure how those efforts impacted your event overall.
Write them down. Your list of goals should be focused, attainable and written down where everyone can see them. Make them part of a written communications plan that you distribute to your whole team.
Rule #2: Make Your Message, and Make it Count
Don't fall into the "any publicity is good publicity" trap. A successful media relations effort is one that communicates your key messages with your target audiences.
Imagine those people who you most need to communicate with. Maybe it's potential athletes. Perhaps it's sponsors. What do those people to know about your event in order to achieve the goals you set? When crafting your key messages, also keep the reporter's perspective in mind. You can be sure that reporters will want to know five things:
Who are you (or your organization)?
What is the event?
When is the event?
Where is the event?
Why are you hosting this event (and why is it important to the reporter's readers/viewers/listeners)?
One more thing about key messages: you don't want to have too many. Too many messages, and no one will remember what you said. This is a great place to imply the rule of three. A trick of effective speakers and writers, grouping ideas into threes makes those ideas more memorable. So, make a list of all the messages you'd like your audiences to hear, then prioritize them. The top three are the ones you'll keep.
Next, make those messages known. It's important to identify a spokesperson for your event (we'll get to that next) but it's also important to treat every member of your team as a spokesperson. Prepare everyone involved to be an ambassador for your event.
Rule #3: Put Your Best Face Forward
A designated spokesperson will enhance your event's credibility as well as ensure that your message is consistent.
You also need to designate one person as media liaison. For smaller events, this might be the same person as the spokesperson, or this could also be a staff member who is charged with the task of communicating with media and setting up appointments for the spokesperson.
Bottom line: always keep the reporter's perspective in mind. And the biggest thing on a reporter's mind is the deadline. Sometimes the only factor that determines whether an event gets media coverage or not is simply whether organizers get back to reporters in time. Having a single contact who ensures that reporters get a timely response is the best way to be sure you make the most out of every opportunity.
Rule #4: Make It Easy
Writing a good story requires a lot of research, which takes time. The easier it is for reporters to access background information on your event, the more time that reporter will have to spend on your story. That's why it's important to create a media kit for your event and make it easily accessible. A good media kit will include:
New release. This is where you put your who, what, when, where and why. Make sure your news release is brief, informative and interesting. Highlight any unique or unusual aspects of your events. If you're targeting television media, you'll want to include aspects of your event that make it a good visual story.
Fact sheets. What background will a reporter find useful when writing about your event? It might be statistics on the popularity of your sport or a brief history of your event. Save reporters time by giving them the facts, and be sure to give them reliable sources for those facts, too.
Photos. By providing high quality images of your event, you're not just increasingly the likelihood that a story will be written about your event; you're also making it easier for magazines and newspapers to run a more eye-catching story as well. Post high-resolution images on your Web site or an HTP site or, if you're mailing a press kit, burn photo CDs and include a photo caption sheet in your kit. NOTE: If children under 18 are in the photos, you'll need to a photo release signed by their parents/guardians.
Rule #5: Keep Up the Good Work
You've worked hard to create measurable goals and you've built your media strategies around achieving those goals, but all that means nothing if you don't track your results as they come in. Create a spreadsheet that tracks all of the media interest. When a reporter inquires about your event, it goes on the spreadsheet. If you send materials to that reporter or set up an interview, record that too. This will allow you to follow up with reporters if you don't hear from them, and it will also give you a record of stories to look for. You should always ask reporters to send you a copy of their story, and collect those clips, but it never hurts to keep your own records, too. If participants or sponsors approach you and mention a particular story, record that information as well. All of this will come in very handy next season.
Rule #6: Plan Ahead
After the event is over and the dust has settled, analyze your results. How many stories were written about your event? Which stories were the most successful, in terms of communicating your key messages or getting the attention of your desired audiences? Compare the results with your original goals and start building your media plan for next year. Be sure to keep track of reporters and editors who covered your event. You might consider pitching them specific story ideas or exclusives next season.
Creating a stellar event that athletes and fans adore is only the first step to building an event that will grow and endure, and that's why effective media relations is the event planner's secret weapon. You can build it, but no one will come unless they know about what you've built. Follow these rules, and you'll develop great relationships with the media, an asset that will deliver huge dividends for every event you plan.